4. Results and Findings
This chapter presents results of the James River Transit user survey along with computer simulation results of potential fixed-route implementations in Jamestown. The survey was divided into two main parts. The first part dealt with the existing paratransit service provided by James River Transit as well as respondents' feelings towards potential fixed-route service. The second part identified demographic characteristics of James River Transit Riders (Appendix A). Numerous computer simulations were also performed to develop the most effective fixed-route for Jamestown. Only the routes which were considered for implementation will be discussed in the following chapter. Finally, a cost-effectiveness evaluation of the Jamestown fixed-route system will be discussed. The evaluation will include discussion on a proposed fare structure and general calculations to determine needed subsidies for James River Transit.
Some general demographics of respondents will be discussed first to identify how respondents compare to the general population. The total number of survey respondents (55) consisted of 15 male and 40 females (Figure 3.1). Respondents' ages ranged from 18 to 83 with almost 60 percent being 50 years old or older (Figure 3.2).
Nearly half of respondents indicated that they had completed high school while the other half had attained various levels of education (Figure 3.3). Also, less than 10 percent of all respondents specified that they were full-time workers while nearly half of respondents indicated that they were retired (Figure 3.4). Therefore, based on these findings, most James River Transit riders based on these findings indicate that most riders are predominantly senior citizens, unemployed and female.
The following results show opinions towards James River Transit's existing service as well as feelings towards the potential fixed-route system. Results indicate that the bus along with family members and friends are the main sources of transportation among respondents (Figure 3.5). Taxi service is also utilized frequently by transit riders. Very few respondents indicated that they drive a personal automobile themselves. Their responses show how dependent the handicapped and elderly population in Jamestown is on James River Transit.
Almost all respondents specified their ridership to be either daily or 2 to 3 times per week (Figure 3.6). This shows both the need and demand for the service on a daily basis. Also, over 90 percent of respondents rated the current paratransit service as either very good or good (Figure 3.7). This is a testament to the quality of service provided by James River Transit and its drivers.
More than 50 percent of respondents indicated specifically that driver courteousness was the best feature of James River Transit with no one indicating a negative response towards the service (Figure 3.8). Dependability of the service and the service's ability to get riders to work on time were among other positive responses.
An important step in determining the fixed-route stops was to determine travel patterns of current riders. Main travel destinations will be used as stops along the fixed-route system. The major retail stores (Walmart, Kmart) and grocery stores (Hugos, County Market) were found to be the most-traveled-to locations in the Jamestown area currently served by James River Transit (Figure 3.9).
Another important aspect of determining a feasible fixed-route option for Jamestown is the timing of the route. James River Transit riders were asked to indicate what time of day they normally ride. This question did not provide a clear answer to determine the desired start and finish time of the route. More than 80 percent (45) of respondents indicated that their travel pattern varies (Figure 3.10).
Important features of the fixed-route must also be determined to maximize its daily ridership. Riders were asked what would encourage them to use the fixed-route system. Responses indicated that increased flexibility, with numerous routes and schedules, along with accessibility were important to maximize ridership in Jamestown (Figure 3.11). Also, nearly 30 percent (15) of respondents indicated they were unaware of ways to increase the ridership of a fixed-route system. This result shows that many respondents are unaware of what a fixed-route system can do in Jamestown, or they are unfamiliar as to how a fixed-route system works. This shows the need for travel training along with the implementation of the new service.
Riders were then asked why they, personally, would be unable to use a fixed-route bus. Nineteen riders (nearly 40 percent) indicated they did not know why they could not ride the bus (Figure 3.12). Disabilities and the inability to walk from their residence to a fixed-route bus stop were other common replies. These results show the need for flexibility in service with a fixed-route system.
The following results are based on survey questions dealing directly with the usage of the proposed fixed-route service. Riders were asked to estimate how often they would use the fixed-route bus. Twenty-seven people (almost 50 percent) indicated they would ride the bus 1 to 5 times a week or 1 to 4 times per month (Figure 3.13), while 21 respondents indicated they did not know how often they would ride. This is likely due to current riders not understanding how a fixed-route system would function, or current riders not knowing how they would use the service.
James River Transit riders were then asked whether they need assistance getting in and out of vehicles and whether or not they can board a bus independently. Thirty-nine respondents indicated they do not need help getting out of vehicles while 41 replied they could not board a bus independently (Figures 3.14 and 3.15). At first glance these results seem to contradict each other, however, climbing the steps of a bus is often far more difficult for the elderly and handicapped than simply getting into or out of a personal automobile. This line of reasoning may explain the responses to these questions.
Current riders were also asked if they would use a fixed-route bus if it were less expensive than the current service; 40 respondents (73 percent) indicated they would (Figure 3.16). Many of the respondents who answered 'yes' to this question may not have taken time to think about whether or not they could physically ride the bus, but rather responded directly to the cheaper alternative. Potential riders were asked if they would be interested in taking travel training for fixed-route service; only 15 respondents indicated such a willingness (Figure 3.17). Thirteen did indicate they did not know and will probably be willing if they see the service as being responsive to their transportation needs.
Finally, questions of improving the current service and advantages of fixed-route versus paratransit service were asked. Sixteen respondents indicated they felt nothing could be improved upon with regards to the current service (Figure 3.18) while eight responses highlighted the request for cheaper service. This will be addressed with a fixed-route bus as the per-ride fare will be less than the per ride paratransit fare. Evening bus service was another sought-after improvement by respondents with six people indicating this as a need. Running the fixed-route bus in the evening a couple of days per week is an option that was recommended by the research team and is being considered by James River Transit.
The main advantage of fixed-route service compared to paratransit is cheaper fares. More than 60 percent (34 respondents) indicated this as an advantage with 50 percent indicating that scheduled service would be an advantage (Figure 3.19). Forty percent of respondents also indicated that fixed-route service being more environmentally friendly than paratransit was a noteworthy benefit.
Overall, the survey results indicate that James River Transit is doing an excellent job providing its current paratransit service. Like most small towns, Jamestown is home to a large aging population that continues to age as the younger generation relocates to larger cities in search of greater opportunity. The concerns of the James River Transit riders are echoed throughout the country. Riders desire better and cheaper service, things which are virtually impossible to provide. A fixed-route system, or something similar, will make riding the bus in Jamestown more affordable for current riders and potential riders who currently use other means of transportation. Also, there seems to be a stigma connected to paratransit service in that only the elderly and handicapped use such a service, making a fixed-route option all the more desirable to increase James River's ridership as a whole.